LABOR INEFFICIENCIES – DIFFICULT TO PROVE, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE CONTRACT SHIFTS THIS RISK TO YOU

imagesThe case of Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Pike Co., Inc., 2015 WL  3453348 (D.Conn. 2015) demonstrates a court barring a subcontractor’s claim for labor inefficiencies based on the provisions of the subcontract.  Not only does this case demonstrate the challenges a subcontractor has in recovering labor inefficiencies based on the risks agreed to in a subcontract, but also the difficult hurdle a subcontractor has in actually proving its labor inefficiencies. 

 

In this case, the general contractor was hired to renovate a public school.  The general contractor hired an electrical subcontractor.  The subcontract contained provisions favorable to the general contractor, as set forth in more detail at the bottom of this article.  The general contractor prepared a CPM schedule to manage the progress of the construction, which was to be completed in phases.  During phase 3, the electrical subcontractor fell behind schedule.  A July 21, 2010 meeting was conducted and the general contractor advised the subcontractor to increase its manpower because the project needed to finish on time and it would not be giving the subcontractor any extension of time to perform. After the subcontractor completed its work in phase 3, it submitted a claim for its increased labor costs (e.g., labor inefficiencies) associated with performing phase 3.

 

The subcontractor sued the general contractor for breach of contract to recover its increased labor costs.  The court held in favor of the general contractor based on favorable subcontractual provisions to the general contractor and rather onerous provisions to the subcontractor.  Stated differently, the court held the subcontractor’s feet to the fire to the risks and provisions in the subcontract that the subcontractor accepted.

 

Subcontractor’s Notification to General Contractor of Claims

 

Section 5.4 of the subcontract (see below) required the subcontractor to notify the general contractor of claims within 3 days.  The subcontractor failed to comply with this claim notification procedure.  As a result, the court held that the subcontractor’s claims were barred by its failure to strictly comply with this claim notification requirement.

 

Subcontractor’s Execution of Lien Waivers in Consideration of Payment

 

The subcontractor did not submit a claim for additional labor costs associated with its phase 3 work until October 2010.  The problem, however, was that the subcontractor executed an unconditional lien waiver in September 2010 that did not reserve any rights associated with this claim.  The court held the subcontractor waived labor costs based on its execution of the unconditional lien waiver it executed.

 

Subcontractor Could Not Prove the General Contractor Breached the Subcontract

 

The subcontractor argued that the general contractor breached the subcontract by forcing the subcontractor to work inefficiently and not providing the subcontractor any extension of time to perform.

 

Section 3.4 of the subcontract (see below) contained a no-damage-for-delay provision.  The court held that any of the subcontractor’s costs associated with a delay were foreclosed by this provision.

 

Furthermore, although not mentioned but demonstrated by the facts, section 3.1 of the subcontract (see below) authorized the general contractor to modify the construction schedule to delay or accelerate work at its discretion without compensation to the subcontractor.

 

Subcontractor Could Not Prove Damages for Increased Labor Costs

 

“A subcontractor claiming compensation from a general contractor for cost overruns must establish the extent to which its costs were increased by the contractor’s improper acts because its recovery will be limited to damages actually sustained.  Generally, proof of damages should be established with reasonable certainty and not speculatively and problematically.” Electrical Contractors, Inc., supra, at *25 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

 

The court held that the subcontractor failed to prove causation of its damages–that the general contractor’s actions (whether stemming from delay or mismanagement) caused the increased labor hours that the subcontractor sought.   Among other inadequacies, the court found the subcontractor sought labor costs for a period of time in which it offered no evidence; the subcontractor made no adjustments for inefficiencies it caused; there was no consideration for labor hours the subcontractor underestimated at bid time for other phases of work; there was no consideration for labor hours the subcontractor overestimated at bid time for other phases of work; the subcontractor could not support the high hourly labor rate it based its damages on; and the baseline for which the subcontractor measured its labor overruns for phase 3 was not reliable.   The subcontractor used a total cost claim to establish its phase 3 labor cost overrun which is a disfavored method to calculate inefficiencies based on its inherent unreliability.

 

Takeaways:

 

  • Understand the risks you agree to in a contract and factor those risks into the contract price.
  • Make sure you timely submit claims in accordance with the contract.
  • Carve out exceptions to lien waivers and releases and ensure you consistently incorporate these exceptions into all lien waivers and releases you execute in consideration of payment.
  • Inefficiency damages from a subcontractor are very difficult to prove.  If you are claiming these damages, make sure you prove these damages based on a methodology that is more reliable than the total cost method (such as the measured mile or, at a minimum, the modified total cost method).  Also, make sure you have the appropriate back-up documentation to support an inefficiency claim, such as a reliable take-off of the bid amount demonstrating the labor hours and that the increased labor costs were directly caused by something the general contractor did or did not do.

 

 Provisions in the Subcontract

 

3.1 Time and Schedule Time is of the essence as to the prosecution of the Subcontractor’s Work. If requested, the Subcontractor shall provide the Contractor with scheduling information and Subcontractor’s proposed schedule for the Subcontract Work. The Contractor may prepare the Schedule of Work for the Project and Contractor shall have the right to modify the construction schedule, to suspend, delay or accelerate, in whole or in part, the commencement or execution of Subcontractor’s Work, or vary the sequence thereof, without compensation to the Subcontractor. In the event such a delay or suspension extends the overall time of performance, the time for the Subcontractor to complete its work shall be extended. The Subcontractor shall commence the Subcontractor’s Work promptly upon notice to proceed. The Subcontractor shall prosecute the Subcontractor’s Work in a prompt and diligent manner as directed by the Contractor and in accordance with the Schedule of Work without hindering the Work of the Contractor or any other subcontractor. The Subcontractor shall proceed with the Subcontractor’s Work, making all necessary deliveries, so as to make timely progress and complete the same in accordance with the Project’s Schedule of Work and as directed by the Contractor. Whenever, in the Contractor’s opinion, the Subcontractor’s Work falls behind, the Subcontractor shall increase its labor force and/or provide overtime, Saturday, Sunday and/or holiday work, and shall have each of its subcontractors do likewise, all at no additional cost to or compensation from the Contractor.

 

3.4 Delays Should the Subcontractor be delayed by the act or omission of the Contractor or by any other contractor or subcontractor on the Project, or by any cause beyond the Subcontractor’s control and not due to any fault, act or omission on its part, then the time for completion of the work shall be extended for a period equivalent to the time lost by reason of any of the aforesaid causes, as determined by the Contractor, and Subcontractor agrees to make no claim for damages for delay in the performance of this Subcontract occasioned by any act or omission to act of the Contractor or any of its representatives.

 

5.1 Change Orders and Directives The Contractor and Subcontractor agree that the Contractor may add to or deduct from the amount of Subcontract Work covered by this Subcontract Agreement, and any changes so made to the Subcontract Work, or any other parts of this Subcontract Agreement, shall be by a written Change Order. A Change Order is a written instrument prepared by the Contractor and signed by the Subcontractor stating their agreement upon the change in the Subcontract Work and the value of such change. In addition, the Subcontractor agrees to proceed with the Subcontract Work, as changed, when so directed in writing by a Construction Change Directive issued by the Contractor so as not to delay the progress of the Subcontract Work and pending any determination of the value. If the Contractor requests a proposal of cost for a change, the Subcontractor shall promptly comply with such request. Contractor shall not make changes in Subcontract Work, whether additions, deletions or other revisions in any manner except by written Change Order or Construction Change Directive. All changes in the Subcontract Work made by Change Order or Construction Change Directive shall be deemed a part of the Subcontract Work and shall be performed and furnished in strict accordance with all terms and conditions of this Subcontract Agreement and the Subcontract Documents, including the current Schedule of Work.

 

5.4 Claims If the Subcontractor believes that any order, directive or condition, other than as provided for in Paragraph 5.7 [“Unknown Conditions”], entitles him to extra compensation or an extension of time, he shall give the Contractor written notice of his claim not later than three (3) days after the occurrence of the event giving rise to the claim and shall, as soon as practicable, furnish sufficient facts in support of his position as may be necessary for a decision. Any claim by the Subcontractor for extra compensation or an extension of time not so made shall be waived, and the Subcontractor shall not be entitled to any extra compensation or extension of time as a result thereof. The Contractor shall not be obligated or liable to the Subcontractor for, and the Subcontractor hereby expressly waives any claims against the Contractor on account of, any damages, costs or expenses of any nature which the Subcontractor or its subcontractors may incur as a result of any delays, interferences, suspensions, changes in sequence or the like, arising from or out of any act or omission of, or attributable to, the Contractor, it being understood and agreed that the Subcontractor’s sole and exclusive remedy in such event shall be an extension of time, but only in accordance with the provisions of this Subcontract Agreement.

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

 

CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULING IS AN IMPORTANT TOOL

imagesConstruction scheduling is an important tool for planning, managing, and forecasting the performance of work on construction projects.   Generally CPM (critical path method) schedules, or schedules depicting the project’s critical path, are prepared beginning with the baseline schedule (the initial as-planned schedule) followed by schedule updates (perhaps monthly updates) as the work progresses.  Schedules identify milestone dates (such as the substantial completion date) as well as the dates and durations of construction activities / tasks.

 

Check out this chart for understanding key terms and meanings when it comes to CPM (critical path method) scheduling. 

 

Besides scheduling being a tool used for project management, schedules are helpful in assessing and measuring delays to the critical path, the acceleration of activities, and inefficiencies

 

Finally, check out this article for more information on the importance of understanding construction scheduling for strong project management.

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

THE VALUE OF A WELL-WRITTEN SUBCONTRACT TO FORECLOSE SUBCONTRACTOR’S INEFFICIENCY / LOST PRODUCTIVITY DAMAGES

 imagesI have previously discussed the challenges a subcontractor has in proving a lost productivity / inefficiency claim.  Besides being difficult to prove, subcontractors generally enter into subcontracts that include onerous provisions that foreclose a subcontractor’s right to pursue lost productivity / inefficiency claims.   General contractors try to account for these types of delay-related claims by including provisions in their subcontracts that require subcontractors to fully bear this risk.  An example of this ocurrence can be found in the opinion entered in Electrical Contractors, Inc. v.  Fidelity & Deposit Co. of Maryland, 2015 WL 1444481 (D. Con. 2015) where the trial court precluded a subcontractor from recovering lost productivity / inefficiency costs based on the language in the subcontract that precluded such claims. Additionally, and importantly, the trial court found that that the subcontractor failed to timely notify the general contractor of its claims under the strict notice provisions of the subcontract.

 

In this case, the general contractor was hired by a state agency to construct a laboratory building and furnished the state a public payment bond.  The prime contract contained a construction schedule (which is not an uncommon exhibit in a prime contract).  The general contractor then entered into subcontracts with trade subcontractors including the electrical subcontractor.  An exhibit to the electrical subcontract was a schedule that simply reproduced dates applicable to the electrical subcontractor’s scope of work that were included in the construction schedule attached to the prime contract.

 

No different than any baseline construction schedule on any construction project, it was not written in stone. This meant there were updates to the schedule that were furnished to the state agency and the state agency unsurprisingly challenged or opposed numerous schedule updates. The general contractor did not keep its electrical subcontractor apprised of the back-and-forth between it and the state agency involving schedule updates (nor was the general contractor under any real obligation to do so).

 

And, as we all know, the schedule of the project is really driven in the field.  So, as the construction progressed, the general contractor’s superintendents directed the electrical subcontractor to perform work in a piecemeal and unsystematic manner. This was due to work areas not being ready for the electrical scope due to delays on the project.  The electrical subcontractor notified the general contractor that it was being impacted and forced to work unproductively. Thereafter, the electrical subcontractor sued the general contractor and the general contractor’s payment bond sureties for damages that included lost productivity / inefficiency damages. 

 

However, the subcontract that the electrical subcontractor signed posed problems with its claims, particularly the following contractual provisions:

 

“Subcontractor agrees to … complete the work in such sequence and order and according to such schedules as Contractor shall establish from time to time … time being of the essence…. If Contractor determines that the Subcontractor is behind schedule or will not be able to maintain the schedule, Subcontractor … shall work overtime, shift work, or work in an altered sequence, if deemed necessary, in the judgment of the Contractor to maintain the progress of the work. Any such … altered sequence work required to maintain progress or to complete the work on a timely basis shall be at Subcontractor’s expense and shall not entitle Subcontractor to … additional compensation.”

***

 

 

“To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, Contractor shall have the right at any time to delay or suspend the work or any part thereof without incurring liability therefore. An extension of time shall be the sole and exclusive remedy of Subcontractor for any delays or suspensions suffered by Subcontractorand Subcontractor shall have no right to seek or recover from Contractor any damages or losses, whether direct or indirect, arising from or related to any delay or acceleration to overcome delay, and/or any impact or effect of such delays on the Work.”

***

 

 

“In the interest of the overall project, W–T [Contractor] reserves the right to alter the sequencing of activities in order to accommodate project conditions and/or Owner requirements. It is understood that the Subcontractor shall be obligated to complete its activities [timely] … regardless of the actual start date.”

***

 

 

There is no guarantee of continuous work. Subcontractor shall work in all areas as they become available and as directed by Whiting–Turner [Contractor]. Subcontractor shall include the inefficiencies, supervision and manpower necessary to run separate and independent crews as necessary.”

 

Electrical Contractors, Inc., supra, at *6 and *7.

 

Additionally, the electrical subcontractor needed to timely notify the general contractor of its claims:

 

“Article 6(d) requires timely written notice as a precondition for making such claims: [N]otice in writing shall be given to the Contractor no later than seven (7) days following the occurrence on which such claim is based…. Any claim not presented within such time period shall be deemed waived by Subcontractor. The notice must describe the dispute, controversy or claim in detail so as to allow Contractor to review its merits … [and] provide detailed information to substantiate such claim including supporting documentation and calculations.”

 

Electrical Contractors, Inc., supra, at *8 (internal citations omitted).

 

While the 7-day claim notice requirement may seem unfair, the court explained that the electrical contractor was a sophisticated entity that knowingly assumed this notice obligation.

 

Of Significance: 

 

These subcontract provisions recited above are not uncommon provisions.  They are rather commonplace with sophisticated contractors–there is no real shock value when looking at these provisions, right?

 

 

If you are a general contractor that includes such provisions in your subcontracts, this case gives you reassurance as to those contractual provisions that are aimed to insulate you from a subcontractor’s delay-related damage and require the subcontractor to give you timely notification of a claim (so that you are not prejudiced by the late submission of a subcontractor claim).  These are important provisions for a general contractor to include in a subcontract and the provisions referenced above are certainly well-written provisions to model.  It is understood that a schedule is never going to be written in stone and there will be logic and sequence changes in the schedule, so protect yourself by including such provisions (including the no-damage-for-delay provision). As you can see, there is value in doing so.

 

On the other hand, if you are a subcontractor, if you accept these provisions, you need to either account for these risks in your subcontract price and/or bear the risk that these provisions may be appropriately enforced against you as shown in this case.  Alternatively, and as the court alluded to, as a sophisticated party, you have the option of not signing the subcontract or trying to negotiate the best subcontract for you with an understanding as to those onerous provisions and risks that you choose to accept.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

WALKING THAT MEASURED MILE TO PROVE AND CALCULATE LOST PRODUCTIVITY / INEFFICIENCY

UnknownWhat is a lost productivity / inefficiency claim?  These are claims where a contractor claims it incurred increased labor (and, perhaps, equipment usage) because an event  (referred to as an impact) caused it to work inefficiently.  There needs to be a causal link between the cause of the impact and the increased labor costs.  See Appeals of—Fox Construction, Inc., ASBCA No. 55265, 08-1 BCPA 33810 (March 5, 2008).   Numerous factors can contribute to a contractor working inefficiently.  Oftentimes these claims are asserted by subcontractors associated with a delay to their scope of work or due to the manner in which the subcontractor’s work was sequenced.  The bottom line is that some impact (not attributable to the contractor asserting the claim) caused the contractor to work inefficiently and incur unplanned, increased labor cost (and/or equipment usage).

 

Lost productivity / inefficiency claims are very challenging claims to prove and calculate.  They require expert testimony to analyze cost reports, labor hours, and project documentation such as daily reports, etc. to determine the performance or production rate for a given scope of work.   But, remember, lost productivity / inefficiency claims also require a causal link between the impact and the increased costs meaning an expert needs to analyze project documentation to determine the impact and the causal link to the contractor’s increased costs.  Probably the most well received method to prove lost productivity / inefficiency is the measured mile methodology.

 

Measured Mile

 

The measured mile compares a period of productive work (the good period) with an unproductive period of the same work (bad period). “The measured mile approach provides a comparison of a production period that is impacted by a disruption with a production period that is not impacted.” Appeal of Bay West, Inc., ASBCA No. 54166, 07-1 BCA 33569 (April 25, 2007).  The period of productive work forms the contractor’s benchmark period of productivity.  Typically, this benchmark productivity is based on the number of man-hours during the productive period divided by the performance or production rate in that period to determine a productivity ratio.  This productivity ratio is compared to the productivity ratio during the impacted period in order to determine an unproductivity ratio that is multiplied by the unproductive performance or production rate to determine the number of unproductive man-hours.  Without determining a benchmark, the measured mile cannot be performed because there is nothing to compare the unproductive period of work to.

 

For instance, let’s take a rough hypothetical: 

 

Good Period — A contractor during a productive period installs 2500 feet  (or select another unit of production or performance) of “x” (you select the scope).  It takes the contractor 4000 labor hours to install 2500 feet of “x.” The number of labor hours (4000) divided by the production (2500 feet of “x”) gives a productivity ratio of 1.6. 

 

Bad Period — The same contractor gets impacted performing the same scope of “x.”  During this impacted period, the contractor installs 1500 feet of “x” with 4600 labor hours.  The number of labor hours (4600) divided by the production (1500 feet of “x”) gives a productivity ratio of 3.07. 

 

Calculating Lost Productivity — Subtracting the productivity ratio during the bad impacted period (3.07) with the productivity ratio during the good unimpacted period (1.6) gives an unproductivity ratio of 1.47.  This unproductivity ratio now allows you to determine the number of unproductive man-hours by multiplying the unproductivity ratio (1.47) by the unproductive performance (1500 feet of “x”) to give you 2205 unproductive man-hours.  The number of unproductive man-hours would then be multiplied by a supported labor rate plus burden to give you your unproductivity costs.

 

If you are experiencing lost productivity / inefficiency, it is good practice to consult with a lawyer and expert in order to best prove and calculate your lost productivity / inefficiency.  Although this article focuses on the measured mile methodology, there are other methodologies that can be utilized based on the facts and circumstances of the project.    Just remember, these types of claims generally require expert testimony to prove.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.